17th level Hacker

How to Make Almost Anything

Future Salon with Neil Gershenfeld. Raw notes, you know the deal, maybe cleaner stuff coming later.

Talking about big bits, when the “bits become smaller than the network”. Initially like morse code, time is the only factor. IP over DC power. Showed off serving web pages from a small embedded board, about a dollar in parts.

End to end modulation, interdevice networking, the state can go to the edges. Not optimal for any one use, but interoperable. Internet zero, powerline to RFID to optical. RFID, the tag is a packet and includes instructions about what to do.

Paintable computing, make the smallest chips you can afford and put them in a viscous medium and paint them out where you need them. Used postscript for display as an example, a wall figuring out how to display a letter. You can shoot a hole in it, if you have twice as much it’s just twice as big.

State of the art fabrication? Not chips, the ribosome protein. Three base code is an error correcting code, redundent. This is a computing machine, state machine, computing to build.

Magnetic tiles that form letters, write a code into the material and the material holds the restrictions necessary to form the shape desired.

When you engineer generally more noise means more errors, and if you’re a good engineer you can modify that line down a bit but not much. If you add information and then remove it you hit a threshold with nonzero noise and perfect performance. Threshold theorems. We are macroscopic things built out of imperfect little parts.

Theory of self-reproducing automata, John Von Neumann. Reliable computation in the presence of noise.

How to make almost anything started as a class to teach people how to use some equiptment they had on campus at MIT.

fab.cba.mit.edu/~shellyle was the URL of a page that he had up. Looks like it’s still live.

We’ve been living with a mistake made in the renaissance that actually making stuff isn’t liberating. That making stuff isn’t in itself a means of expression.

Computers becomming accessable to workgroups rather than organizations as a whole (like mainframes) was what gave rise to all the usefull stuff we think about when we think about computers now. This led to a project to put together a set of tools to produce micrometer and microsecond level technology. Goal is to get the fab to the point where it can build a fab. Fab Labs.

Instead of bringing tools to the masses, bring the means to create tools to the masses. The capability to create information technolgies that fit the problems and can be modified.

We are in the minicomputer era of personal fab.

Neil is interested in how you cross VC with microfinance. He should talk to Stuart Gannes.

cba.mit.edu/~neilg http://fab.cba.mit.edu/fab/